Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lost Bravado

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Lost Bravado

Article excerpt

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Before the first quarter was finished, the Jets had already let Tom Brady know they weren't here to lay a pain- free path to his 12th win of the season, to make yet another trip into a first-round playoff bye an easy road.

Before the first quarter was finished, the Jets had already sacked New England's otherworldly quarterback three times, swarming him from all angles, pushing him to the MetLife Stadium turf with precision and purpose.

Before the first quarter would finish with neither team having yet scored, the Jets were reminding us all of the best of Rex Ryan's times, reminding us how good the embattled coach can be in devising defensive game plans. Here he was, disrupting the Hall of Fame- bound Brady much like he'd done earlier this season against fellow future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, much like he's done to Brady in nearly every game these two teams have played across his six years running the Jets.

"We're the team that always gives him the biggest challenge, whether he admits it or not," Ryan said, the only blast of bluster he could manage in the aftermath of another oh-so-close loss to his nemesis from the north.

"This was another game that I thought we had a heck of a chance to win against New England. That's been the story of probably the last four out of five times we played them. To their credit, they find ways to win. They made big plays at the end of the game to win. That's why they're where they are right now and what separates them from a lot of teams. It's unfortunate.

"I really thought it was going to be our day."

Ryan won't want to admit this, but really, it was.

It was a consummate Ryan Jets day, in which sitting through these 60 minutes felt like sitting through the last six years. The game was a microcosm of everything good and bad since Ryan rode into town with big promises and bold guarantees, the best and worst of his attempt to resuscitate this moribund franchise. If the Ryan reign ends, as expected, after next weekend's season finale in Miami, Sunday's 17-16 loss to New England is precisely how that tenure will be remembered.

The Jets played hard to the final whistle, hung in there against a vastly more talented team, gave us moments of inspiration and moments of desperation, but ultimately, just weren't good enough to beat a better team.

Ryan showed off his defensive alchemy, keeping Brady out of sync through a masterful first half, sacking him four times while New England's offense managed 52 yards. His defense would hit Brady 11 times in all, more than any defense has done this year, thanks in part to improved play by an injury-ravaged secondary and the return of Muhammad Wilkerson to the defensive line.

That was the good part. But in true Ryan form, there was an ugly flip side, and in true Ryan form, it was from an offense he has ignored for far too long. …

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